Armed Forces News

Iraq - April 2010: Retired Sgt. 1st Class Michael Schlitz, a veteran who was burned over 85 percent of his body by an IED, tells a joke to paratroopers stationed at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. Part of Operation Proper Exit, Schlitz often uses humor to broach difficult subjects such as suicide prevention. (US Army photo)

While acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic touches every corner of society, advocacy groups contend that veterans could face a disproportionally high hit.

“For veterans, social distancing isn’t as easy as it may be for others,” the Union Veterans Council, one such group, stated in an April 4 press release. “Many are facing sudden job loss and loss of wages during this pandemic, creating the ‘perfect storm’ for a mental health crisis in our veterans’ community.”

Younger veterans could face particularly severe hardships, the organization stated, prompting the need to monitor their financial and mental-health stability while the pandemic persists.

The organization cited a study conducted by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, showing that 14 percent of all veterans work in jobs that carry the highest risk of layoffs.

The foundation, established and named for the ABC-News anchor who suffered severe injuries while covering the war in Iraq, is planning to raise up to $10 million to provide support for veterans and their families affected by job loss during the pandemic.

The study’s findings:

* Charitable and support organizations should focus efforts on communities with large veteran populations.

* Veterans are facing “significant employment challenges,” and are at “tremendous financial risk.”

* Crisis services should be poised to help veterans who have mental-health issues. Short-term care, telehealth and suicide-prevention hotlines should be ready to provide necessary support.

* Veterans who rely on activities based on social interaction could need other avenues – such as online platforms – while social distancing prevents closer contact with others.

* Organizations that traditionally serve veterans could be strapped for resources because of high demand. An easement of restrictions grant-makers must follow could help.